SIMulator is a Sobering Experience at Fallsburg
By Ted Waddell
FALLSBURG May 11, 2007 Four kids, four deadly wrecks.
“It doesn’t make you want to drink and drive, I’ll tell you that,” said Darius Buckner, a 17-year old junior at Fallsburg High School, seconds after getting out behind the wheel of a state-of-the-art driving simulator.
Monday morning, the folks at Fallsburg invited TEAM DUI of the Pennsylvania Driving Under the Influence (DUI) Association of Harrisburg, PA to set up their Safety SIMulator in a small parking lot outside the high school.
Throughout the day, the district’s juniors and seniors all had a chance to get behind the steering wheel of the simulator while the technician tossed a variety of hazards into the path of their vehicle as he electronically raised the level of their “blood alcohol consumption (BAC) that thing the cops arrest you for if you fail the field sobriety test.
Nobody escaped without “COLLISION!” flashing on the screen, as students were hit head-on by oncoming drunk drivers, or being “under the influence” themselves, crashed into other vehicles, ran off the road into trees, side-swiped old ladies out for a Sunday drive, smashed into deer or flattened the neighbor’s mailbox.
Added to the deadly mix were adverse weather conditions.
Ever heard of snow and black ice on county roads?
According to data published by the National Center for Statistics and Analysis (NCSA) of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2005 there were 23 traffic fatalities in Sullivan County (16 occupants of passenger cars, five riding in light trucks/vans and two motorcyclists).
Of the 23 deaths, 11 involved excessive speed and four were alcohol related.
Nationwide in 2005 there were 43,443 traffic fatalities, and in New York 1,429 people died in traffic-related incidents, according to the NCSA/NHTSA.
Collision 1: Seventeen-year old junior Nicole Dainick has a learner’s permit, but crashed due to lousy road conditions.
“I hit an oncoming car, and it was rainy and stuff,” she said.
Collision 2: Alicia Buckner, a 16-year-old 11th grader is the niece of a Sullivan County Sheriff’s Department detective.
Her take on SIMulator?
“It was hard,” she replied. “I think I was doing okay until I hit a mailbox.”
What about all the recent headline-grabbing teen traffic deaths?
“It’s crazy,” said Buckner. “This will make me think about driving slower and not listening to everybody telling me to go faster, and definitely not drinking and driving.”
Collision 3: Michael Singer is a 17-year-old junior.
In October, a teenage friend and neighbor three doors down, who used to attend Fallsburg High until she switched to home schooling, was killed in a traffic accident.
“My friend Kat [Werner] was killed when her car crashed right into a tree, and she apparently burned to death,” he said. “Everybody knew her and was shocked at her death.”
Singer has a learner’s permit and will be taking driver’s ed later this year.
“I’m just beginning to drive, and this gives you an idea of what you’re going to face when you’re out there,” he said of the driving simulations.
“When they increase the [electronically simulated] alcohol amount, your driving changes dramatically,” he added. “They gave one girl three ‘shots,’ and she was swerving everywhere and ended up hitting a semi.”
Singer was doing just fine until he hit another vehicle.
Collision 4: Darius Buckner’s dad is a cop.
The local teenager was “cruisin’ at 90” when veteran State Farm Insurance agent Robert Lavelle pointed out that the posted speed limit was 65 miles per hour.
“You don’t want to drink and drive, because you really can’t control the car,” he said. “Someone pulled out in front of me, and I didn’t have a chance!”
“It makes me sad to hear about all the teens getting killed in car accidents,” said Buckner before heading back to class.